Lillian speaks to the Minister about two government announcements from yesterday, the first being an extension of temporary working visas, and the second being a hold on incoming flights to the country. They also touched on a tool the Minister has been working on during her time in government. Just for some more information around the visa extensions, given this is not Martin’s portfolio she indicated she may not have all the details. Minister Iain Lees-Galloway announced yesterday that the Government is "making immediate short-term changes to visa settings to support temporary migrants already onshore in New Zealand and their employers, while also ensuring New Zealanders needing work are prioritised".
So this means,
- Extending all existing employer-assisted temporary work visas for people in New Zealand and whose visas are due to expire before the end of 2020 by six months, benefiting around 16,500 workers
- Shifting the stand down by 6 months to February 2021. So this affects migrant workers who are subject to the 12 month stand-down period and were going to have to leave New Zealand this year will now be able to stay for the duration of the extension, and that affects 600 workers. The stand-down period being the amount of time one has to leave the country before applying to come back and work. The government states that, The stand-down period was introduced in 2017 to prevent lower-skilled, lower-paid foreign workers from becoming well settled in New Zealand without a pathway to residence. Just a note here because of the way in which lower-skilled as a term has negative connotations, the Government is continuing to work on a number of changes, which were announced pre-COVID-19. These changes include a different way to define lower-skilled/lower-paid employment and a new process for employer-assisted work visas expected to be fully in place by mid-2021.
- Finally, the last part of the announcement was ensuring New Zealanders needing work continue to be prioritised.
So back to Tracey Martin, Lillian started by asking her how this will work.
EDIT: Minister Iain Lees-Galloway's response 08/07/2020:
“Temporary work visas are there to fill temporary gaps in the labour market and that is clear when people apply for temporary visas. Work to residency is only available for more skilled jobs where there is a longer term skills shortage.
“The extension to visas announced yesterday is to give people breathing space to work out what is best for them. The New Zealand labour market is changing as more New Zealanders lose their jobs and as always, immigration is there to fill the gaps in our labour market. As the gaps close, there may be fewer opportunities for temporary migrant workers.
“We value the contribution our migrant communities make to New Zealand and it’s great that many do become residents and citizens. However, like in most countries around the world, temporary immigration is for temporary work opportunities. That’s a choice people make for themselves.
[on the low-skilled issue] “Last year we introduced changes to the employer assisted temporary work visas that includes introducing the use of pay rates as a proxy for skills. In the vast majority of cases higher skilled roles are paid above the median wage so the median wage is being used to assess the skill level, instead of complicated skills assessments under ANZCO.”